As the large-scale resettlement program for Bhutanese refugees draws to a close, the Australian Ambassador to Nepal, Glenn White, visited Beldangi refugee camp in Jhapa District on September 1. During the trip, White met with Bhutanese refugees and observed programs designed to increase their self-reliance.
According to a press release issued by UNHCR, Australia has been an important partner of the Government of Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), resettling over 6,000 Bhutanese refugees to Australia.
Since 2007, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have joined forces to collectively resettle over 104,000 refugees to date – representing more than 9 in 10 Bhutanese refugees. Globally, far less than 1% of refugees are resettled.
"The resettlement program for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal has been an exceptional demonstration of solidarity and burden-sharing by the international community", said Ambassador White, who currently serves as the Chairperson of the Bhutan Core Group (BCG). The BCG is comprised of diplomatic representatives from the eight countries that have resettled Bhutanese refugees abroad.
UNHCR projects that, by the conclusion of the resettlement program, approximately 115,000 Bhutanese refugees will have been resettled from Eastern Nepal, with an estimated 10,000 refugees remaining in the camps in 2017.
"With the drawdown of the resettlement program, UNHCR is hopeful that space has been created for the pursuit of alternative solutions for those Bhutanese refugees who remain", said Kevin J. Allen, UNHCR Representative in Nepal, who accompanied ambassador White during his visit. "UNHCR stands ready to support the process, working in collaboration with the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan."
Over 65 million persons are forcibly displaced globally – the highest number observed since World War II. With ongoing humanitarian crises in places like Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, the international community faces unprecedented challenges addressing humanitarian needs.
In 2017, UNHCR and partners will increasingly focus on education, health and livelihoods initiatives which aim to increase the self-reliance of Bhutanese refugees — and further enhance their ability to contribute to society.